When I was younger I did a stint working on new builds, doing truss roofs with my old man. I learnt a lot through the process; things about wood, things about building, and more than I could hope to know about my Dad. Another thing which I learnt could only be appreciated on reflection…
When I started out we’d do the job between the two of us with little more than hammer and nails. His experience and knowledge made us quick. We’d do a good job and get paid well for an honest days work.
Before long nail guns became common place on the building site and through making the investment early some of our competition could complete the roof in half the time. They could build two truss roofs a day and were quids in!
This must have worked out well for them until everyone else followed suit and became equally as quick. It didn’t take long for the prices for roofing to be driven right down.
We now needed to get twice as much work just to earn the same amount. I watched in a very short space of time how this progress with just simple site tools pushed many skilled hands out of work. I’m not suggesting it was as extreme as bringing tractors to the farm but this was something that I could see happening right in front of me.As ever it’s a two sided coin, and despite my love of hand tools I’ve often written about my need and appreciation for my machines and some power tools. There’s this attitude though which I can never imagine will change but I think it should, and that’s the notion that we should always be moving with the times because old ways are outdated and slow.
Keeping up-to-date is good but we should be well aware from experience that moving forward often results in putting people out of work and loosing skills. New fandangled devices will generally follow the same trend and drive down the price for everyone eventually. Sometimes it may just make more sense to keep it simple and keep everyone in work.
Fortunately some things do come round full circle and my old man can stick stubbornly with his bag of tools and do alright by it. Many joiners will invest in a multitude of power tools so there’s one for every job but these are a serious investment and are a lot to maintain – that has to reflect in their prices. By contrast the old tools will keep on going and the skills and knowledge help find a fast solution to any conundrum.
I’ve seen my old man hang doors and I’m pretty confident he could give anyone a run for their money; he’d have it all morticed out with his chisel in the time it could take to set up a fancy jig.
The Domino is a pretty expensive tool which has kept it fairly niche up until now. Eventually though other manufacturers will be able to make them and at that point there’s no doubt that the price will plummet – will we be saying goodbye to the mortice and tenon?